What to Do If Your Employer Is Not Accommodating Light Duty Work Restrictions (2023)

Home » What Happens If an Employer Cannot Accommodate Light Duty Work Restrictions?

Under ideal circumstances, employees injured or sickened on the job recover quickly and are able to resume their occupations as though nothing had happened. But reality is rarely idyllic.

Long before the employee is fiddle-fit, doctors sometimes declare workers sufficiently recovered to resume workplace activities, so long as they employer accommodates the worker’s physical condition. Often referred to as “modified work” or “light duty,” this back-to-work development can lead to an alarming thicket of mis-es: misunderstandings, misinterpretations, misapplications, and misapprehensions.

To make certain they are not misled or mistreated, injured/recovering workers must make certain they take precautions to protect themselves. At minimum, before crossing the light-duty threshold (assuming it is offered — and more on that in a moment), workers need to know, plainly, (a) what is expected of them and (b) what expectations their supervisors have.

Ideally — that word again — everyone will be on the same page. The employer will have an established, successful light-duty program in place. Supervisors will be well-informed and completely on board. The returning employee will be able to fulfill the modified-work role. And everyone will carry on happily ever after.

Alas, our work lives often fail those fairytale endings.

Is an Employer Required to Provide Light Duty Work?

Statutes vary from state to state, but, generally, on the topic of light duty assignments, workers compensation law cuts both ways. If it’s available, employers have to offer it. If it’s offered, employees have to accept.

The first one is a monumental “if.” Some industries simply don’t have light-duty opportunities, and some industries don’t have light-duty opportunities for certain types of workers. Imagine the oil industry worker with less than a high-school education sidelined with a back injury who has recovered sufficiently to resume activities, so long as they don’t involve bending, crouching, stooping, or lifting more than 15 pounds.

Royce Hoskins doesn’t have to imagine that worker. He’s been representing them in New Mexico’s Permian Basin for more than a quarter-century. He’s also one of them. Long before he graduated Baylor University Law School and, eventually, became owner and CEO of Roswell-based Trenchard & Hoskins, Hoskins grew up working in the West Texas oil fields.

This does not mean oil patch workers beat a path to his door the moment they’re hurt on the job. Oftentimes, the first time he sees them is, well, let’s let him tell it:

“I get this all the time,” Hoskins says. “ ‘My doctor put me at 20-25 pounds, and they got me doing the same old job where I’m lifting 50­-75 pounds all the time, and it’s killing me.’ And they’re just walking into my office for the first time.”

So, not exactly “light duty.” To begin attempting to make it right, a workers compensation lawyer will file a complaint to the attention of the state workers compensation administration to call the employer to account. Eyebrow arched knowingly, Hoskins will tell his new client, “Let’s see what excuse they’ve got for this.”

As predictable as sunrise, Hoskins says, the boss — or the boss’ counsel — will indict a subordinate: “The supervisor really didn’t know what the restrictions were, so we’re gonna start accommodating them. So, I’m like, OK, the guy can continue as light duty.”

What Happens If Your Employer Does Not Have Light Duty Work?

For every injured/sickened worker, two phases of recovery come into play, Hoskins says. Workers who are in the process of recovering but have not achieved maximum medical improvement (MMI) fall into one classification. Workers who have met MMI — the patient is beyond improving through further medical or rehabilitation interventions — fall into another.

If the employer cannot, or will not, offer light or modified duty to the pre-MMI worker whose doctor says the patient cannot return to his/her previous assignment, there is but a single option: “The worker stays on temporary total disability, and they just keep rolling along like they are,” Hoskins said.

This, however, is rarely an accommodation a worker can achieve without the assistance legal counsel.

To help the attorney get this result, the worker/client must be able to provide a reliable accounting of all that has gone before. Hoskins relies on clients providing a reliable, detailed narrative, and being able to identify corroborating witnesses.

Memories being faulty and oftentimes incomplete, Scranton, Pa.-based workers comp attorney Todd O’Malley recommends writing things down. Long before a worker thinks (s)he needs legal help, keeping a contemporaneous journal helps your memory fresh. Good note-taking also is a sign of conscientiousness in a legal setting.

“Take notes, and tell somebody” O’Malley says. “If you’re still hurting three weeks later, you may get the wrong date or wrong time.”

Time that elapses between when you notice the beginning of a workplace injury and when you report it, introduces an element of uncertainty that can work against you. Maybe you played in a recreational softball league tournament or wrenched something playing golf. Maybe you sipped while hiking or strained that muscle building a deck.

These are the sorts of questions your employer’s workers compensation representative will ask. If you haven’t lined up an attorney, you may not know these are questions you don’t have to answer.

Having preserved the details in real time, let the attorney decide on its proper use. “Let me marshal the evidence,” Hoskins says, “Because you don’t want to marshal evidence; you don’t know how to do it and not let them walk over you. Because if folks are truly hard on the job, they’re truly hard.”

Can You be Fired for Work Restrictions?

Firing workers (or coercing them into quitting) over work restrictions is not unheard of, but, at least in Hoskins’ experience, it’s rare. “Fewer than 10% of my cases,” he says.

In the instances when his client is “getting jacked around at work,” Hoskins gathers the details, presents them to the adjustor or opposing counsel, and waits. “My experience is, ‘Hey, bro, we’re gonna accommodate this.’ Or we get, ‘Hey, we’re just gonna put the guy back on his regular indemnity benefits because it’s not gonna work out.’ That’s my normal.”

Again, statutes and experiences vary by state. Workers who face harassment or termination while performing light duty need local legal representation to answer key questions, such as:

  • How would termination (or resignation) affect my workers comp case and benefits?
  • How would termination (or resignation) affect my employment benefits?

What If I Don’t Want the Light-Duty Assignment?

Sometimes, six months will pass with the employee collecting workers comp benefits before the employer identifies a modified-work situation.

“I want it in writing what the job is and what the job entails,” Hoskins says. “How many hours a week? What does it pay? What’s the job?”

What results, says the attorney, is the “alligator lookout assignment.”

“You know, they put a guy in a chair in southeast New Mexico making sure no alligators come into the drilling yard,” he says. “Thing is, we don’t have alligators in New Mexico.”

If the employer is counting on getting out from under its workers compensation obligation by the worker quitting out of boredom, that’s just the risk the worker has to take.

Otherwise, no matter what, when modified work suitable to the worker’s condition is offered, it must be accepted. “There’s a bad consequence to the worker not showing up,” Hoskins says.

This is Hoskins counseling his disgruntled client: “You’re gonna jeopardize your whole damn case. … I’m not saying that you just have to take whatever [nonsense] they throw at you. What I’m saying is that you gotta go out there. … And then if they mess with you, don’t get in a pissing match with them.

“You just take good notes and get hold of me. … I’ll just tell the adjuster or the defense lawyer, look, we did what we’re supposed to do under the system, you guys are not doing.”

With the right legal team behind you, Hoskins says, “They always, always back down.”

The right legal team. Make no mistake about that.


What to Do If Your Employer Is Not Accommodating Light Duty Work Restrictions? ›

If an employer cannot accommodate work restrictions appropriately, check your workplace policies. Sometimes a human resources professional or a union representative can help. Other times, a doctor can provide additional guidance. If none of those options work, speak with an employment lawyer.

What is an example of light duty restrictions? ›

“Light Duty” Defined

For example, a warehouse stock clerk hurt his back while moving heavy crates. He is eventually allowed to return to work months later but with a light-duty work restriction. This means he can't go back to lifting and moving stocks like he used to do. Doing so may aggravate his injuries.

What if I can't physically do my job anymore? ›

You may qualify for Social Security disability if you can't work any full-time job on a regular basis. If you don't have a medical condition that qualifies you for immediate approval of disability benefits (called a "listing"), you'll need to prove that you can't work anymore.

What if an employer Cannot accommodate work restrictions in PA? ›

If this happens, you cannot be required to work. If your employer cannot give you work that meets your work restrictions, your employer's insurance agency must pay temporary total disability benefits. You should show the doctor's work restrictions to your employer and discuss how your restrictions can be met.

What if an employer Cannot accommodate work restrictions in Florida? ›

If the employer can not or chooses not to provide the worker with a job that accommodates these restrictions the worker is entitled to be paid TPD at the rate of sixty-four percent (64%) of the AWW.

What is considered light duty by OSHA? ›

Light work generally means lifting 20 pounds maximum with frequent lifting and/or carrying of objects weighing up to 10 pounds.

What would be considered light duty? ›

Light-duty work, sometimes referred to as modified or alternative duty, is considered any job assignment that takes into account the physical limitations of the injured employee. This type of work must still meet all labor laws and regulations and provide fair wages for workers.

What to do when you can't handle working anymore? ›

What should I do if I don't want to work anymore?
  1. Check in with your mental health. ...
  2. Reflect on the source of your feelings. ...
  3. Envision your ideal life. ...
  4. Make time for breaks. ...
  5. Adjust your daily habits. ...
  6. Explore different careers. ...
  7. Give yourself rewards. ...
  8. Save up to take time off.
Feb 3, 2023

Can I quit my job due to medical reasons? ›

A claimant who leaves work due to fear of becoming ill or being injured has good cause if the claimant has a reasonable basis to believe that there is an undue risk of injury or illness . . . . Minor chronic health conditions that are not aggravated or significantly affected by the work do not justify leaving the work.

What to do when you can't handle your job anymore? ›

What to do if you're stuck in a job you don't like
  1. Be clear about what you can and can't control. ...
  2. Take time to look after yourself. ...
  3. Make a list of pros and cons. ...
  4. Make the most of your downtime. ...
  5. Change how you think about your work. ...
  6. Talk to someone. ...
  7. Make a plan to find different work.

What constitutes inability to work? ›

The Social Security Administration (SSA) defines disability as: The inability to engage in substantial gainful activity (SGA) Because of medically determinable physical or mental impairment(s) That has lasted or is expected to last for a continuous period of at least 12 months OR is expected to result in death.

What type of employer behavior do employment at will restrictions describe? ›

A: The at-will employment law of California allows an employer to fire an employee with or without cause and with or without notice for any lawful reason. This does not mean an employer can fire an employee for no reason or for an illegal reason.

When may an employer refuse to make a reasonable accommodation for a disabled worker quizlet? ›

Under the ADA, employers are required to provide reasonable accommodations to qualified employees with disabilities, unless doing so would pose an undue hardship. An employer is not required to make an accommodation if it would impose an "undue hardship" on the operation of the employer's business.

What does it mean to return to work without restrictions? ›

• A 100% return to work policy is one that provides that an injured employee cannot return. to work until s/he is “100% healed.” This means that the employee must have no residual restrictions or limitations in order to return to work. • Also known as “full duty recovery” policies and “no restrictions” policies.

What is undue hardship as it applies to workplace accommodations? ›

"Undue hardship" is defined as an "action requiring significant difficulty or expense" when considered in light of a number of factors. These factors include the nature and cost of the accommodation in relation to the size, resources, nature, and structure of the employer's operation.

Is an employer always required to provide a reasonable accommodation to a person with a disability under the Americans with Disabilities Act? ›

It is a violation of the ADA to fail to provide reasonable accommodation to the known physical or mental limitations of a qualified individual with a disability, unless to do so would impose an undue hardship on the operation of your business.

Does light duty mean recordable? ›

OSHA officials take this last sentence to mean that “light duty” is a recordable work restriction unless the physician affirmatively states that the employee may perform all of his routine job functions and may work a full shift.

Is Light Duty A recordable? ›

Is it recordable? Answer: YES. The term “light duty” is misunderstood by some.

What are OSHA general duty violations? ›

Employers can be cited for violation of the General Duty Clause if a recognized serious hazard exists in their workplace and the employer does not take reasonable steps to prevent or abate the hazard. The General Duty Clause is used only where there is no standard that applies to the particular hazard.

What is the definition of light-duty at work? ›

Generally, "light duty" refers to temporary or permanent work that is physically or mentally less demanding than normal job duties (EEOC, 1996).

Is light-duty sedentary duty? ›

Sedentary work, also called light duty work, is work that involves lifting no more than 10 pounds at once. It can occasionally involve carrying or lifting items such as ledgers, small tools, and docket files.

What is the definition of light-duty in the workplace? ›

Light duty work means that your company will offer to have you perform less physically or mentally demanding work until you are able to perform your full job responsibilities again.

What are the five symptoms of burnout? ›

Emotional signs and symptoms of burnout
  • Sense of failure and self-doubt.
  • Feeling helpless, trapped, and defeated.
  • Detachment, feeling alone in the world.
  • Loss of motivation. Increasingly cynical and negative outlook.
  • Decreased satisfaction and sense of accomplishment.
Feb 24, 2023

What is undue stress at the workplace? ›

When an employee doesn't feel physically or emotionally safe while working; When relationships with co-workers are strained; or when an employee suffers from workplace bullying or harassment.

Should I quit my job if it is affecting my health? ›

Making the decision to step away from a job is not always easy or feasible. But when your physical or emotional well-being is suffering and your stress isn't eased by the occasional mental health day, experts say it's generally best to start looking elsewhere.

How do I resign immediately due to mental health? ›

How to write a resignation letter when resigning from stress
  1. Write down the time and date. ...
  2. Address the recipient by their name. ...
  3. Include your formal statement of resignation. ...
  4. Clearly state your final day of work. ...
  5. Express your gratitude. ...
  6. List any important information. ...
  7. Include a closing note and signature.
May 26, 2023

Can a doctor tell you to quit your job? ›

The law is on your side, but only if you are willing to work within it. A doctor's medical recommendation is good cause to quit, but only if we have first given the employer the opportunity to correct, remove, or accommodate the medical reason in some way.

What is quiet quitting and who is it for? ›

Quiet quitting doesn't actually refer to quitting a job—it means completing one's minimum work requirements without going above and beyond or bringing work home after hours. The quiet quitting trend has been met with mixed reception by business leaders and the media since it went viral in 2022.

How do you quit a job you can't stand? ›

How to Quit a Job You Hate
  1. Be Discreet. When you're unhappy at work, venting to coworkers for emotional support is a natural stress reliever. ...
  2. Don't Go on a Rant. ...
  3. Write a Resignation Letter. ...
  4. Give at Least Two Weeks' Notice. ...
  5. Ace Your Exit Interview.

How much money do you need to quit work? ›

After all, you'll need finances to fall back on to pay your bills while you search for a new job or grow your business. “I suggest having at least 12 months' worth of living expenses in a liquid savings account to be on the safe side,” said Mark S.

What is the most approved disability? ›

What Is the Most Approved Disability? Arthritis and other musculoskeletal system disabilities make up the most commonly approved conditions for social security disability benefits. This is because arthritis is so common. In the United States, over 58 million people suffer from arthritis.

What are the 4 categories of disability? ›

There are many different types of disabilities such as intellectual, physical, sensory, and mental illness.

What conditions are not considered a disability? ›

Broken limbs, sprains, concussions, appendicitis, common colds, or influenza generally would not be disabilities. A broken leg that heals normally within a few months, for example, would not be a disability under the ADA.

What is an example of work restriction? ›

Examples of Work Restrictions

Avoid physically demanding activities, such as bending, squatting, lifting, carrying, or pushing; Avoid standing or walking for extended periods of time; Avoid reaching above shoulder level; and. Avoid high-stress, or high-anxiety situations.

What are toxic employer behaviors? ›

Common behaviors include bullying, yelling, manipulating and belittling. Employees in a toxic work environment may be nervous to speak their minds, raise concerns or share thoughts because they are worried about being rejected or reprimanded.

What is an example of unacceptable behavior at work? ›

Unacceptable behaviour

Aggressive or abusive behavior may include: threats of physical harm or actual physical harm. behaviour or language (verbal or written) that may cause staff to feel offended, afraid, threatened or abused. insulting or degrading language.

Can an employer refuse to implement what would otherwise be a reasonable accommodation? ›

Can an Employer Deny Reasonable Accommodation? If your employer refuses to provide a reasonable accommodation, it must be because the accommodation would cause undue hardship to the employer or company. Generally, undue hardship would result when the request is too difficult or expensive for the employer to implement.

Which is not an example of reasonable accommodations? ›

Under state law, the following are not reasonable accommodations: Providing a personal care assistant. Personal aids unrelated to work such as wheelchairs or glasses. Any accommodation that is unreasonable given the employer's particular circumstances and operations, such that it would pose an undue hardship.

What does the ADA require the employer to make for employees with disabilities? ›

An employer is required to provide a reasonable accommodation to a qualified applicant or employee with a disability unless the employer can show that the accommodation would be an undue hardship -- that is, that it would require significant difficulty or expense.

What is an example of a light duty restriction? ›

“Light Duty” Defined

For example, a warehouse stock clerk hurt his back while moving heavy crates. He is eventually allowed to return to work months later but with a light-duty work restriction. This means he can't go back to lifting and moving stocks like he used to do. Doing so may aggravate his injuries.

What does without restrictions mean? ›

Without restriction generally means no restriction or limitation on a person's activities, that an individual can do whatever they want, and that they are back to their pre-injury status.

What is unnecessary undue hardship? ›

Unnecessary hardship means a hardship by reason of exceptional shape of a lot, exceptional topographic conditions, or other exceptional physical conditions of a parcel of land.

What is considered a hardship for a job? ›

The classic example of employment hardship is the individual who's out of work but can't find employment for any number of reasons. The Bureau of Labor Statistics defines this category as including anyone who doesn't hold a job and has been actively searching for work in the past four weeks.

What does extreme inconvenience mean? ›

Examples of undue hardship and extreme inconvenience include living a great distance or long travel time from the court or a grave illness or emergency in your family that outweighs the importance of jury service. You can also ask the court to consider other hardships that are similarly significant.

What is an example of a modified work schedule reasonable accommodation? ›

Some examples of modified work schedules as a reasonable accommodation: An accountant with a mental disability required two hours off, twice weekly, for sessions with a psychiatrist. He was permitted to take longer lunch breaks and to make up the time by working later on those days.

What is undue hardship examples? ›

A really expensive accommodation, for example, would be enough to constitute an undue hardship, especially if the employer has few resources.

What is an example of a work restriction? ›

Examples of Work Restrictions

Avoid physically demanding activities, such as bending, squatting, lifting, carrying, or pushing; Avoid standing or walking for extended periods of time; Avoid reaching above shoulder level; and. Avoid high-stress, or high-anxiety situations.

What is considered restricted duty? ›

Restricted work occurs when, as the result of a work-related injury or illness, (a) an employer keeps the employee from performing one or more of the routine functions of his or her job, or from working the full workday that he or she would otherwise have been scheduled to work; or (b) a physician or other licensed ...

What is another word for light duty work? ›

Light duty work (or modified duty work) means that your employer will place you in a less physically demanding job until you are healed.

What does light duty mean in military? ›

Definition: A period when a Service member reports to their work space but is excused from performing certain aspects of military duties.

What are unacceptable working conditions? ›

A poor workplace culture can include a lack of healthy competition (or a lack of motivation), lots of workplace politics, harassment by coworkers or clients, unusually high stress, lack of recognition for achievements, or discrimination (based on ethnicity, gender, and more).

What are the three most common restrictions in an employment contract? ›

The other types of restrictive covenants found in employment contracts are non-disparagement, non-interference and non-solicitation.

What if my employer is not letting me return to work? ›

Workers' compensation laws say that the employer needs to bring you back to work in your same position or a position within your restrictions, if possible. If a larger employer refuses to bring you back to work without reasonable cause, you can file a civil lawsuit against the employer.

Is light duty an OSHA recordable? ›

OSHA officials take this last sentence to mean that “light duty” is a recordable work restriction unless the physician affirmatively states that the employee may perform all of his routine job functions and may work a full shift.

What is an example of a restricted work case? ›

Any work-related injury other than a fatality or lost work day case which results in a person being unfit for full performance of the regular job on any day after the occupational injury.

How do you count restricted days for OSHA? ›

How do I count weekends, holidays, or other days the employee would not have worked anyway? You must count the number of calendar days the employee was unable to work as a result of the injury or illness, regardless of whether or not the employee was scheduled to work on those day(s).

What is permanent light duty? ›

Generally, "light duty" refers to temporary or permanent work that is physically or mentally less demanding than normal job duties (EEOC, 1996).

What are the other terms that can be used for light? ›

  • glow.
  • glare.
  • gleam.
  • illumination.
  • sunlight.
  • glint.
  • beam.
  • luminescence.

What does light work mean? ›

DEFINITIONS1. to do something very quickly and easily. Willie Thorne made light work of his opponent to earn a place in the last 16. Synonyms and related words. To do something quickly and/or easily.

What happens after limdu? ›

Operational Screening (Sea Duty Screening).

After a LIMDU member is able to RTD, completes assignment screening, and is in receipt of PCS orders to an operational command (Type Duty Code “2” or “4”), member must complete an operational screening per reference (b), and MILPERSMAN 1300-800.

What is a temporary limited duty commonly known as? ›

Limited Duty (LIMDU) / Physical Evaluation Board (PEB)

Temporary Limited Duty (TLD) is defined as a documented period of medically restricted duty, in consideration of a patient's illness, injury, or disease process.

What are the three types of military duties? ›

  • Participate in, or support, military operations, such as combat or training operations, or humanitarian or disaster relief.
  • Operate, maintain, and repair equipment.
  • Perform technical and support activities.
  • Supervise junior enlisted personnel.
Jan 25, 2023


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